If you’re assuming the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle is the rarest of his standard Topps and Bowman cards, you’re correct. It’s a statistic that most collectors are familiar with. However, a comparison shows the difference in the number of graded Mantles from his first three seasons isn’t quite as startling as you might think.
The infographic below tallies the population numbers on the combined reports from PSA and SGC (if you have a Beckett password you can add their grading division’s numbers in).
While the 1951 Bowman rookie card is more readily available than the 1952 Topps, the difference isn’t huge with about 400 more Bowmans having been encapsulated.
More interestingly, it would appear the 1953 Bowman Mantle may be significantly undervalued considering it’s the third toughest early Mantle card to find–and by a significant margin when compared to the ’53 Topps. Yet an EX/MT (6) graded 1953 Topps Mantle typically sells for more than double what a ’53 Bowman goes for in the same grade.
You can compare prices for those early Mantle cards on eBay here.